Philemon was a very well-to-do Christian of Colossae converted by Paul and the Master of Onesimus. An important church center had revolved around his house. Philemon and Paul were, it seems, intimate friends and he had stayed at Philemon's house many times. It is likely, though not recorded, that Paul visited Colossae during his three year stay at Ephesus. Onesimus was the name of the slave who belonged to Philemon. The name Onesimus means profitable. The slave had robbed his master, run away, and come to Paul who was then in prison. Paul instructed him and baptized him. The slave had stayed for a while near Paul in prison in order to care for his needs. Finally the apostle sent him home with a message to his former master asking for forgiveness, acceptance as a brother, and even his freedom.

Onesimus may have been a very talented young man. The Roman army, in its excursions, often took the brightest and best young men and women, and brought them home to be sold into slavery. Possibly Onesimus had learned to love Paul in Philemon's home years before. The tradition is that Philemon had forgiven him and took Paul's hint and gave the slave his liberty. The tradition goes that Onesimus afterward became a bishop in Berea.

Apphia was probably Philemon's wife. Archippus was probably pastor of the congregation. Epaphras was a Colossian imprisoned in Rome.

Onesimus was accompanied on his journey to Rome by Tychicus, the bearer of the epistle addressed to the whole church in Colossae. Ignatius epistle: that the bishop of the church at Ephesus at the time was a man named Onesimus, Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch in Syria. Paul's belief in the speedy return of Jesus made him attach little importance to freedom or servitude. It was the spirit of slavery, not at the form of the institution, that Paul struck in this shortest of his letters.
[311, 338, 358, 374]

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